With United Arab Emirates (UAE) conferring on him its highest civilian awards and Russia too deciding to do so, Prime Minister Narendra Modi now shares the Hall of Fame with a number of world leaders, including several monarchs and long-term rulers.
Moscow earlier this year announced that it would bestow the Russia's highest civilian award – Order of the St. Andrew the Apostle – on Prime Minister of India. It was earlier conferred on three foreign leaders, including two former Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan presidents, who had long stints in power. The last foreign leader to receive the award before Modi is Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom too an amendment in the constitution of the communist country in 2018 effectively gave a go-ahead to stay on in power for life.
Modi will visit Vladivostok in Far Eastern Federal District of Russia this week. He will attend the Eastern Economic Forum and hold the annual summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok itself before returning to New Delhi. He will not visit Moscow this time.
But since the Order of the St Andrew the Apostle is only presented inside the Kremlin in Moscow, the award ceremony will not take place during the forthcoming visit of Prime Minister. He may have a short visit to Moscow later to formally receive the award from Putin.
Among the earlier recipients of the award is the last President of the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Mikhail Gorbachev.
Gorbachev, unlike most of his predecessors, had resigned on December 25, 1991, immediately after dissolution of the USSR, which he had led just six years. Two of the three foreign leaders who had received the award before Modi, however, had much longer terms in power. Heydar Aliev took over as president of Azerbaijan on October 10, 1993 and remained in office for 10 years. He stepped down on October 31, 2003 due to ill health and was succeeded by his son Ilham Aliyev, who is now in the 16th year of his presidency. Nursultan Nazarbayev, another recipient of the “Order of the St Andrew the Apostle”, took over as President of Kazakhstan on April 24, 1990 and, notwithstanding allegations of human rights abuses, continued to stay on in power till March 19, 2019, when protests across the country prompted him to resign.
Xi, who took over as Chinese President in November 2012, received the award from Putin in 2017 – a year before China changed its Constitution to remove the two-term limit on the presidency, effectively allowing him to remain in power for life.
The Order of St. Andrew the Apostle was instituted in 1698 by Tsar Peter the Great, in honour of Saint Andrew, the first apostle of Jesus and patron saint of Russia. It was abolished after the USSR came into existence. It was re-instituted as the highest award of Russia in 1998 – seven years after the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
Russian recipients of the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle include Mikhail Kalashnikov, the father of the deadly AK rifles, and eminent literary personalities like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Sergey Mikhalkov, Daniel Granin and Rasul Gamzatov.
Putin on April 12 announced that he would confer the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle on Modi for “exceptional services in promoting special and privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India and friendly relations between the Russian and Indian peoples”. The announcement came at a time, when Modi was leading the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's campaign for the parliamentary elections, which finally won him a second five-year term in the office of Prime Minister.
The Order of St Andrew the Apostle was however not the only foreign award Prime Minister received during the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince and United Arab Emirates’ de facto ruler Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced decision to confer the “Order of Zayed” award on him on April 4. Modi finally received the highest civilian award of the UAE during his visit to Abu Dhabi on August 24.
The earlier recipients of the “Order of Zayed” included Xi, Putin, Pakistan's former military chief and President, Pervez Musharraf, and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Isaias Afwerki, who have been presidents of Turkmenistan and Eritrea for 12 and 26 years respectively. The UAE in the past also bestowed the award on Queen Elizabeth of UK, Queen Beatrix of Netherlands and Prince (now Emperor) Naruhito of Japan as well as the monarchs of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.
Bahrain also conferred its King Hamad Order of the Renaissance to Prime Minister when he visited Manama on August 24. Earlier, he received the Seoul Peace Prize during his visit to South Korea on February 22.